Rafael Nadal played absolutely sublime clay-court tennis today during his 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 defeat of Robin Soderling in the Roland Garros men's final, earning his fifth crown in Paris and 7th career major tying him with John McEnroe + Mats Wilander on the all-time Grand Slam list. The Majorcan Matador also reclaimed the top spot in the world rankings from Roger Federer and did it all without dropping a set in the entire tourney. *clap, clap*
Rafa was flawless from all parts of the court landing 77% of his first serves, 7 aces, 28 winners/16 errors and saved all 8 break point chances against him. His defensive skills, in particular, were on full display becoming a human wall the Swede couldn't hit through on the day. He ran, dug and slid for every single ball like a terrier gunning for his favorite toy.
The heavier conditions, thought to be an advantage for Sod, helped the Spaniard with his footing and allowed his game to flourish. "At the same time, I can run better," said Rafa. "I feel more (through translation) stable on court than when the court is very dry. So that's the very important point for me today."
It's pretty incredible to think back to April and the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tourney when the 24-year old fought for, and won, his first tourney in almost a year. Since then he grabbed two more Masters 1000's at Rome + Madrid, breaking Andre Agassi's all-time Masters 1000 record with 18 total shields, his fifth title at Roland Garros going 22-0 during this stretch and a return to the top of tennis.
Afterward, he explained why this win had so much meaning for him:
Is important because is one of the most important because I had difficult year, and for some moments was difficult to accept the injuries and everything. You know, for moments you don't know if you are ready another time to compete, you are 100%.And what about the post-match pool of tears he shed into his towel after the comprehensive win?
At the same time, sometimes is a big frustration when you are in US Open and you broke your an abdominal one week before and you are in Australia and have to retire during the quarterfinals match. So all these moments are difficult to accept. I was there all the time, and for that reason, today is a very, very special day for me.
I was there crying, but was really emotional moment for me. But probably is because of the situation. I didn't thought about a lot of things but the moment, and after, a lot of nervous, a lot of pression for me and a difficult year. After you win this big title is, everything is you lose your tension.
For the second year in a row the towering Swede was denied his maiden major in straight sets. Sod could have stamped his mark on this match early in the opening set, though, when he earned the first of 8 break point chances in the fourth game. But Rafa's brilliant play prevented him from doing so at every step of the way and he admitted as much in his post-match presser:
You know, as I said, I think I can beat anybody. But when Rafa is playing like this, you need to have a really good day, which unfortunately I didn't have today.True enough Sod. But even on your best day I'm not sure you, nor any other baller, was going to stop the inspired and determined play of the newly crowned World No. 1 today. He was just too good.
So congrats to Rafa on his stunning achievement!!!
[Photo(s): Getty Images, Reuters]